Grading the Top 10 Recruits from the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2014

Grading the Top 10 Recruits from the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    No disrespect to the Army All-American Game, which is plenty important in its own right, but no high school all-star exhibition holds a candle to the one hosted each year by Under Armour.

    The top 14 players on the 247Sports composite participated in this year's spectacle, though ninth-ranked Tony Brown missed the actual game with an injury sustained in practice. Of the top 21 recruits in the nation, only quarterback Kyle Allen and running backs Joe Mixon and Sony Michel didn't attend.

    It's tough to launch a career in an all-star game, with so many rules in place to sanitize the game and keep players healthy. Still, a guy like Vernon Hargreaves III kickstarted an All-American campaign in St. Petersburg, Fla., last season, so the game is not quite meaningless, either.

    These grades shouldn't be taken as an end-all, be-all scouting metric. Even those who didn't make a statement on Thursday remain 5-star guys.

    Regardless, here's a look at how the top 10 participating players performed.

10. WR Speedy Noil

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    Future Team: Texas A&M

    Noil was the first (of many) to spurn LSU on Thursday afternoon, committing to play for Kevin Sumlin's offense at Texas A&M. He didn't take long to get Aggies fans excited.

    Speedy burned the Nitro secondary down the field for a 64-yard touchdown, flashing his eponymous speed and making a ridiculous outstretched catch. Barring something unforeseen—misfortunes along the line of an injury or suspension—that's just the first of many long touchdowns we'll see.

    Noil also scooped up a fumble on a muffed punt in the first half, playing the role of "Johnny on the Spot" after the Nitro returner dropped the ball. Though not necessarily important for scouting purposes, it was nice to see nonetheless.

    Grade: A-

9. DE Myles Garrett

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Future Team: Texas A&M

    Garrett didn't do much in the second half, but the impression he left after the first half of Thursday's game was large enough to compensate. Put in the simplest possible terms: He was un-blockable.

    It took just two possessions for Garrett to reach four tackles for loss on the game. Whereas other players needed to ease their way into action—to establish their sea legs, if you will—Garrett came out firing on all cylinders, showcasing a lightning-quick first step. His second and third steps looked pretty darn good as well.

    Aggies fans have to be giddy with what they saw from their future defensive end, especially on the heels of such a disastrous defensive season. If Garrett can breathe some energy into that unit, life after Johnny Manziel might be enjoyable yet.

    Grade: A+

8. S Quin Blanding

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    Future Team: Virginia

    Blanding played a solid game on Thursday, despite getting torched by Miami commit Braxton Berrios for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    It is worth mentioning, though, that a few plays earlier, Blanding saved a touchdown for his squad by chasing down Dalvin Cook on a long gain and making a big-time tackle. So really, at that point, he was playing with house money.

    Along with defensive tackle Andrew Brown, Blanding represents a landmark class in the history of Virginia football. Expectations are high, but the top-ranked safety in America is talented enough to meet them.

    Grade: B

7. CB Adoree' Jackson

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    Future Team: Undecided

    Jackson came down with one of the signature highlights of the Under Armour Game, hauling in an interception in the back of the end zone during the second quarter.

    It was an uber-athletic bit of contortion, which is sort of Jackson's trademark, though it does bear mentioning that the throw was poor. A breakdown between the quarterback and wide receiver left Jackson with no one around him, and the ball was sent sailing in his direction.

    One of the highest uncommitted players left in the class, Jackson is tentatively favored to end up at USC, per 247Sports. If he does become a Trojan, he and rising sophomore Su'a Cravens would be a secondary duo with rare, immense upside. If he ends up at Florida instead, substitute Vernon Hargreaves III's name for Cravens'.

    Grade: B+

6. DT Andrew Brown

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Future Team: Virginia

    Brown had a solid week of practice in Florida but didn't show up much during the actual game. Obviously that isn't a good thing, per se, but the success in a larger sample size should keep Virginia fans from fretting too much about their prized tackle.

    With two 5-stars committed—and both ranking in the top 10, no less—UVA is still thrilled about this incoming class.

    Brown and Blanding each showed that they are respective works in progress, but they also showed flashes of why they are ranked so high to begin with.

    Grade: C+

5. CB Marlon Humphrey

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    Future Team: Undecided

    Humphrey's name wasn't called too often during Thursday's broadcast, but for cornerbacks, much like offensive linemen, that is often a good thing. It means the guys around you can't get open.

    Plus, the nation's second-ranked cornerback—or top-ranked cornerback, depending on how you define Jabrill Peppers—need not fret about being mentioned these next few weeks. He's the highest-rated uncommitted player in the nation, so we'll be hearing his name quite a lot.

    Alabama and Florida State are fighting to recruit his services, though the Crimson Tide's securing Tony Brown on Thursday might play a role in his decision. Not that the path to playing time is clear and easy for the Seminoles...

    Grade: B

4. DE Da'Shawn Hand

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    Future Team: Alabama

    Hand didn't dominate for long stretches at a time on Thursday, but he did have a very good week of practice. Additionally, he made one of the best plays of the actual game, making a nifty pass-rush move and coming away with a sack.

    Capable of playing both end and linebacker at the next level, Hand projects to be a versatile weapon in Nick Saban and Kirby Smart's defense. Cut from the same cloth as Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, he's in the right place to enjoy both college success and professional grooming.

    Grade: B

3.OT Cameron Robinson

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    Future Team: Alabama

    It's hard to learn much about offensive linemen in the all-star games, since the sanitized rules don't allow for advanced pass-rushing and five-man defensive fronts.

    Robinson, though, certainly looks the part of a blue-chip left tackle, standing big and tall at 6'7'', 335 lbs. He struggled at times during practice this week but made enough good plays to keep Tide fans confident.

    Alabama could have another gem at left tackle.

    Grade: B-

2. CB Jabrill Peppers

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    Future Team: Michigan

    Peppers was all over the place on Friday afternoon, though not always in a good way. He missed badly on an open tackle against Travis Randolph in the first half, allowing the FSU commit to break away down the sideline for a long gain.

    Still, Peppers made enough "wow" plays to warrant high marks, especially in an all-star game. Despite being flagged for an "illegal" inside rush, he blocked a field goal that went for a called-back touchdown at the end of the second quarter, and he also returned a kickoff to nearly midfield in the third quarter.

    Beyond defense and special teams, Peppers also took some snaps as a wildcat quarterback, showcasing the versatility that has helped make him such a famous recruit. He's projected to spend most of his time at cornerback for the Wolverines, but it wouldn't be shocking for him to get a crack elsewhere in certain formations.

    Grade: B+

1. RB Leonard Fournette

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    Future Team: LSU

    Fournette started slow but finished fast in St. Petersburg, fumbling on the first drive of the game (on a failed exchange with the quarterback) and not doing much of anything until the fourth quarter.

    It was worth the wait.

    On two consecutive plays in the fourth, Fournette made a sensational cutback run for a first down and caught a long touchdown pass down the right sideline. He showed his incredible burst, change-of-direction ability and versatility in the span of roughly one minute, which is why he's the top-ranked guy in the country.

    Not 20 minutes after those plays, he finally ended this chapter of his recruitment by committing to play for longtime favorite LSU. It was a long day for fans in Baton Rouge, who watched three of five targets commit elsewhere, but landing Fournette was a perfect tonic for those losses.

    Grade: A-